The scene presented in reading from Revelation 12:7-17 is at odds with any perception we may have of heaven as a place of peace and tranquillity.
At a point described in Daniel 12 as the mid-point of the great tribulation the Archangel Michael and his faithful army of angels are locked in a battle with the dragon and his fallen angels that will finally deny Satan access to heaven (see Job 1:12; Zechariah 3:1; Luke 10:18).
How is this battle fought? We know this is a real fight; while our battle with Satan and his demons is spiritual, among angels, it is possible that there is a material battle to be fought in a way we can only imagine.
Note the various titles and descriptions in verse 9 – dragon, serpent of old (Genesis 3), the Devil, Satan, who deceives the whole world; he is vicious, an adversary, an accuser and a deceiver.
Verse 11 provides three keys to the saint’s victory over Satan:
- The blood overcomes Satan’s accusations – those accusations mean nothing against us because the price has already been paid by Jesus Christ. We may be even worse than Satan accuses us of being, but we are still are made righteous by the work of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14)
- The word of their testimony overcomes Satan’s deceptions; they need not be deceived because they have known and remembered the work that God has done in their lives. As faithful witnesses, they have a testimony to bear – and because they know what they have seen and heard and experienced from God, they cannot be deceived by Satan’s lies telling them it isn’t true.
- Loving not their lives overcomes Satan’s violence; if they do not cling to their own earthly lives, then there really is no threat Satan can bring against them.
While Heaven rejoices at the eviction of Satan the wrath of the dragon is focused against God’s people on earth. Satan attacks the woman (v.13-16) but God protects her and delivers her to a place in the wilderness where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time (Daniel 12:7).
There are various interpretations about these verses as to what, who and when. Some have taught that the woman is a symbol that represents all the people of God, including faithful Israel and the church; they use this to advance the idea that the church is here during the tribulation period. Others see her as Israel in general, or Messianic Jews in particular.
Satan’s power is real and terrifying, but not because he is triumphant, but because he knows he is beaten and has a short time left – like a wounded, cornered animal, he can fight with great ferociousness. We may ask if he is defeated – why doesn’t he just give up? But we should remember that Satan is utterly depraved – he may have deceived even himself into thinking that he has a chance.